In addition to radiation therapy and surgery, medications are commonly used to treat mesothelioma patients. Two main classes of medications used to treat mesothelioma patients are chemotherapy to kill cancer cells, and pain management drugs, though, technically, all drugs are considered chemotherapy. But there are other mesothelioma drug treatments used in conjunction with these types. The Brown | Gould | Kiely, LLP website offers a wealth of information such as medications vs. surgery vs. radiation in staging and treatment for mesothelioma.
Chemotherapy is a term most commonly used to refer to the drugs that kill cancer cells. The mixture of Pemetrexed (Alimta™) and Cisplatin is one of the most effective pleural mesothelioma chemotherapies for patients that do not meet the criteria for surgery. Patients who took folic acid and vitamin B12 as well did even better.
A 2002 study, the largest mesothelioma clinical trial ever conducted to that point, showed a 25-30% improvement in survival rates and tumor shrinkage in 41% of patients in the study group. Cisplatin alone proved ineffective as a mesothelioma treatment. But when researchers combined it with AlimtaT it was very effective.
Carboplatin is a modified form of Cisplatin and has shown some success in the treatment of mesothelioma. It has fewer side effects than Cisplatin, which make it an attractive alternative.
Onconase (aka Ranpirnase and P-30 protein) is an enzyme that accelerates the action of another enzyme that breaks down RNA. Breakdown of RNA destroys cancer cells but does no harm to normal cells. In one study researchers concluded, “[Onconase] may even reduce the incidence of these cancers in those exposed to asbestos.”
Gemcitabine has shown some success in the treatment of lung cancer and mesothelioma. It is usually used in combination with another chemotherapy drug. Gemcitabine kills asbestos cancer cells and interferes with the DNA replication in other cells. While Gemcitabine targets rapidly growing cells, it does, unfortunately affect hair and immunity cells.
Navelbine (Vinorelbine) is extracted from the periwinkle flower. It binds to structures that are essential to cell division preventing them from dividing. It both slows the growth of the cancer and kills existing cancer cells. Used as part of a larger treatment regimen that includes surgery, Navelbine has a somewhat higher rate of success in treating mesothelioma than other chemotherapy drugs.
Gene therapy works by injecting the patient with a genetically altered “virus” that causes the malfunctioning cancer cells to produce normal proteins making them more susceptible to chemotherapy drugs.
Immunotherapy uses the patient’s cancer cells to create a vaccine that when given to the patient triggers an immune response against the cancer cells, with no effect on healthy cells.
Pain Management Drugs
The type of mesothelioma pain management drugs you might take will depend upon the disease stage, amount of pain you experience, whether it is for post surgical pain or pain caused by the tumors.
Mild pain can be treated with non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID) such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
More severe pain is usually treated with opioids like oxycodone, codeine, or hydrocodone.
Moderate to severe pain is usually treated with stronger opioids like morphine, fentanyl or hydromorphone.
Mesothelioma drug treatments are expensive, but you should not delay treatment for this reason. You may be the victim of negligent asbestos exposure and possibly entitled to a settlement, which would cover the costs of your treatment and other losses.
Please contact Brown | Gould | Kiely, LLP, an experienced mesothelioma lawyers in Baltimore, Maryland and Washington, D.C. for a confidential, no-cost consultation.